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article imageAltered NBC tape may be ground of appeal in Sandusky case

By Arthur Weinreb     Jun 25, 2012 in Crime
The tape of the Bob Costas interview with Jerry Sandusky that aired on the Today show contained a duplication of a question concerning Sandusky's sexual propensities. The badly edited tape may form part of a planned appeal of Sandusky's convictions
As reported by Digital Journal, last Friday a jury found the former assistant Penn State football coach guilty of 45 of 48 counts of sexually assaulting young boys. The 68-year-old Sandusky is looking at a sentence of between 60 and 400 years.
As usually happens after a person is convicted, thoughts turn to an appeal. One of the possible grounds that will be raised was an altered (or as NBC likes to say, "poorly edited") tape of the interview Sandusky gave to Bob Costas last November.
Reuters reports that in response to a subpoena, NBC News handed over three different copies of the interview, one of which was aired on the Today show. At the 6:38 mark of the accompanying video, Costas asks Sandusky, "Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys?" Sandusky repeats the question. Then the tape shows Costas asking the same question again, followed by the former coach repeating the question again.
Costas only asked the question once and Sandusky only repeated it once. The duplication resulted from an error in editing, according to NBC.
The Atlantic Wire quotes Nils Fredericksen, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office, saying, "It wasn't noticed by NBC News, it wasn't noticed by us, but it became obvious when it played in court."
Joe Amendola, Sandusky's lawyer, had sought a mistrial because of the repetition, arguing it made his client look like he refused to answer the question, making Costas repeat it. The judge ruled that the error in the tape was not significant because the jury was advised to ignore the Today tape and rely on the correct transcript of the interview.
This is not the first time NBC has been criticized for editing to make someone look guilty or more guilty. As Digital Journal reported last April, the network played the 911 tape from George Zimmerman's call to police the night he shot Trayvon Martin. The tape had Zimmerman saying, "He looks like he's up to no good. He looks black."
The edited tape left out a question asked by the operator after Zimmerman told him Martin looked like he was up to no good. The operator asked, "Is he white, black or Hispanic?" Only then did Zimmerman say, "He looks black."
It is doubtful the misleading Costas tape had any effect on the jury or their decision. What was really damning was after the question was asked, Sandusky repeated the question. This is a classic way to buy time to think up what the answer should be. If someone who has absolutely no sexual interest in children is asked that question, the usual answer is a resounding, "NO!"
Another ground of appeal that will probably be raised is the ineffectiveness of counsel. Lawyers told the Allentown Morning Call that the evidence was so voluminous, Amendola's allowing his client to appear with Costas and some of the statements made to the press are not likely to be the basis of overturning the 45 convictions.
The repetition of the question raises more questions about NBC than it does about Sandusky's convictions.
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